Despite being at the origin of one of the world's most devastating public health concerns, the Human Immunodeficiency Virus (HIV) has properties that can be harnessed for therapeutic purposes. Indeed, the ability of HIV to efficiently deliver its genome into the nuclear compartment makes it an ideal vector for gene delivery into target cells. The design of so-called HIV-derived vectors, or more generally lentiviral vectors (LVs), consists in keeping only the parts of the virus that ensure efficient nuclear delivery while entirely removing all coding sequences that contribute towards the replication and pathogenesis of the virus: as a result, the vector genome is composed of less than 10% of the original virus genome and exclusively cis-active sequences. Proteins required for the formation of the lentivector particles and for the early steps of viral replication (including Gag- and Pol-derived proteins) are provided in trans. HIV-derived vectors are thus non-replicative virus shells that deliver genes of interest into target cells with high efficiency. Undoubtedly, there is a hopeful twist of fate in our fight against AIDS, which consists in using these vectors to achieve gene therapy and vaccination against HIV itself. This review summarises the current generation of LVs with a special focus on vaccine applications against AIDS. Preclinical data are very encouraging and efforts are ongoing to optimise these vectors, to increase their safety and improve their immunogenicity.
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